Movement Therapy In Addiction Recovery
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Dance has been in existence for thousands of years, but its use as a therapy tool began much later – In 1947. Over the last 75 years, movement therapy has sparked a brand-new field of psychotherapy and taken its place as a holistic treatment approach for both drug and alcohol addiction.
What is movement therapy?
Movement therapy, also known as dance movement therapy, dance therapy, and dance psychotherapy, is defined by the American Dance Therapy Association “as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual.” In short, this approach is a form of psychotherapy that utilizes movement to achieve holistic healing in the individual.
Dance movement therapy, which occupies its own branch of psychotherapy and requires a specialized degree and licensure to practice, operates on a number of principles that focus primarily on movement’s ability to tap into an individual’s deepest feelings and experiences.
Movement is a language.
Dance is sometimes referred to as a universal language because of its ability to communicate thoughts, ideas, and feelings across cultures. Addiction and trauma often hinder an individual’s ability to feel and express deep or complex emotions. Dance therapists view movement as its own, powerful, language that can give addicts a voice to express the things they may otherwise be incapable of talking about.
The body and mind are connected.
As a holistic addiction treatment, dance movement therapy views the mind and body as a connected whole. The body affects the mind, and the mind the body. As a result, dance movement therapists believe that using the body to uncover and deal with emotional and mental problems is an effective way to help the whole person heal.
Movement can express buried thoughts, feelings, and traumas.
Dance movement therapy also approaches addiction recovery from the position that many emotions, traumas, and thoughts are buried at a subconscious level and that movement is the most effective way to bring them to the surface, where they can be dealt with.
How does movement therapy assist in addiction recovery?
Dance movement therapy is used as a psychotherapy approach to rehab to assist individuals who otherwise struggle to express themselves through traditional evidence-based practices. Cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and other forms of talk therapy are not always effective, particularly when individuals are suffering from alexithymia (Difficulty feeling emotion) or other emotional and mental issues caused by their addiction or co-occurring disorders.
Movement therapy is used to help clients achieve any of the following recovery goals:
- Help clients relax so they more easily discuss their thoughts, feelings, and traumas.
- Provide clients with a different way to express themselves
- Identify themes that may be subconscious.
- Bring up traumas and other issues that have been buried.
- Allow for the processing of important issues.
- Connect the individual to their physicality and develop greater mindfulness.
What types of approaches are used in movement therapy?
Despite the use of the word “dance” in this treatment approach, dance movement therapy is not about dance in the traditional sense. Participants do not learn choreography and perform in front of others. Instead, this approach utilizes a number of movement-based approaches that allow the participant to privately express and process their emotions and traumas with their therapist.
Here are some of the approaches that they may use:
- Moving in response to a prompt from the therapist
- Observing their movements in a mirror to uncover hidden thoughts, feelings, and traumas
- Mirroring movements, or having one’s movements mirrored by the therapist
- Physically expressing certain life events
- Responding physically to music
- And other movement-based approaches
While movement therapy is used as a way to address issues that cannot easily be expressed through verbal language, talking is often utilized alongside movement in these sessions. Once an emotion, theme, or trauma comes to light, the therapist and the client may discuss it further, or the client may take the insights they learn in their DMT sessions to other counseling and therapy sessions for further processing.
Is movement therapy effective?
There are very few studies examining the effectiveness of dance movement therapy for addiction. However, there are a few studies that support its effectiveness in addressing other disorders, such as depression. These studies indicate that dance movement therapy has the ability to reduce depression and anxiety in adults, while improving other abilities, including the following:
- Cognitive skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Quality of life
- Psycho-motor skills
These benefits may also support clients in their recovery from addiction. Addressing the underlying mental and emotional disorders that often accompany addiction, and improving an individual’s ability to think, interact, and process can support a more robust and long-lasting recovery from addiction.
Dance movement therapy is an important aspect of addiction recovery for some clients. As a tool for addressing issues that would otherwise remain buried in the subconscious, this approach can assist individuals in digging deeper into the underlying drivers of their addiction and helping them to make more effective use of traditional, evidence-based practices.
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